There is quite a bit of talk about the "crisis" in high-tech, and many startups report difficulties in growth, fundraising, and hiring and, unfortunately, there are quite a few layoffs too. But at the same time, there are still startups that manage to raise impressive amounts, similar to those raised in 2021. One of them is Weka, which today (Tuesday) announces a mega-funding Series D round of a whopping $135 million, which was completed according to a market value twice that of the beginning of the year: $750 million. Although the recruitment evokes memories of 2021, the CEO of the company explained to us at Geektime that the process was very different compared to before.
From two weeks to 4 hours
Weka is developing a slightly different data management platform which, according to the company's CEO and founder Liran Zvibel, should completely solve problems such as performance requirements, managing large amounts of data, and handling different protocols, while also addressing the issue of sustainability. Unlike existing data management systems, Weka's system constantly checks which storage components are full and which are free, to divert the load to the free components. According to Zvibel, this leads to 10-to-100-fold performance acceleration. "Customers turn to us when they switch from using normal processors (CPU) to acceleration with graphics processors (GPU) as is customary now in artificial intelligence and machine learning projects, and also when they move to cloud computing... For example– an autonomous driving project was able to reduce the time for an epoch (how long it takes to do a complete round of machine learning) from two weeks to 4 hours. This means that with Weka, they get the equivalent performance of 1 year with their previous system, in just one week.”
The current fundraising round, which brings the company's total fundraising to approximately $275 million, was led by Generation Investment Management, with participation from Qualcomm’s fund, Samsung, Hitachi, HP NVIDIA, Gemini, Celesta, Atreides, 10D, Key1, Lumir, Micron, Mirae, MoreTech, Northwest and more. Although it may seem like players like NVIDIA are competitors of Weka, as they too are trying to be industry leaders for new data centers, Zvibel explained that its latest developments provide a great backbone for the company: "Our architecture is also very suitable to support the NVIDIA DPU, so this is just another example cooperation, not competition. They need software solutions that will use the DPU processors to give added value to customers."
Weka's fundraising round is particularly impressive considering the global economic situation, but especially that which has hit the high-tech sector, and indeed Zvibel explained that this round, there was a significant change in the behaviour of investors: "Investors are clearly investing more resources in the due diligence of the company, the technology, the inspections and reporting. And yes, the financiers conducted many more interviews with customers and partners and moved the process through more stages than it was customary to do in the last two years." According to him, the company's business performance is "excellent", with 250% growth compared to the original business plan of 2022, and NDR of 255% without abandoning customers: "You see that when the company is successful and the customers are satisfied, it is possible to show high-efficiency measures and therefore investments are still made. We decided to raise an amount of money that would guarantee us that no matter what happens in the markets, we will be able to bring the company to profitability and make sure that we can operate as an independent company."
Weka was founded in 2013 by Liran Zvibel, and currently employs about 300 people– 120 of them in the company's offices in Israel.